I threw everything away and moved into an Airstream trailer.
It turned out to be one of the best decisions I’ve ever made.

Oh, Give Me a Home Where the Burritos Roam

Near the end of the buying process for the trailer, they asked me where I wanted it delivered. Suddenly I realized that I had no idea where exactly I would be living.

I had only given a passing thought to the concept of trailer parks, so it was time to research. I scoured Google Maps for every RV park I could find, and gauged their livability based on the Street View. Very few places had an actual website or any method of contact other than a phone number.

After identifying the best choices, I began calling each one, and finding out that they were all full and had a waiting list. This was unexpected, but by the end of a long calling session, I had two parks with open spots.

The first one was nice and clean, with a swimming pool and laundry facility. I instantly liked it, but it was also the most expensive in the entire Bay Area, which is saying a lot.

The next day, I went to the second location, and things went downhill from there.

The manager wasn’t there, so I called him to check, and he had forgotten about it. While I waited outside the central park office, I overheard residents yelling between their trailers. One lady evidently was sick and had diarrhea all night. Later, I see a young girl stick her head through a hole in a trailer door and start speaking to me in Spanish. I shrug and apologize.

When the manager finally arrives, with a bad combover and a track suit, he says, “Let’s talk first.” So he opens the office building and leads me through a dirty office space to a back room. He tells me to sit on an ugly, stained couch and takes a seat across from me.

He starts his interview by asking vague personal questions, and eventually trying to find out how much money I make. I awkwardly avoid answering in too much detail, telling him only the things he needs to know. Eventually, he stands up and says, “Ok, let’s take a drive.”

“Uhh… Drive?”

Leading me back outside, and he tells me that the available spot is in another lot nearby, and we’ll drive over there together in his minivan.

I stop outside and say, “Oh, I can just drive there. Do you have the address?”

“There’s no address, but it’s really close,” he says, as he opens the passenger side door, grabbing handfuls of trash in the seat, and throwing it in the back of the van. Once he’s cleared out enough for me to sit inside, he orders, “Get in.”

Stupidly, I get in the van.

So we start to drive several blocks away, while he’s pointing out the sites nearby, trying to sell me on the neighborhood. Finally, we drive down a street and pull into a small parking lot between a convenience store and a pawn shop. This lot is extremely small, with around 8 RVs parked in it.

To the left is a line of three old cars with their hoods open. It looks like a “chop shop” for stolen vehicles. At the back corner of the lot is an RV straight out of Breaking Bad, with two guys standing outside of it, wearing sleeveless, open biker jackets and no shirts on underneath. They mostly ignore us.

He points at the line of cars, “There’s the space.”

“Where the cars are?”

“Yeah. I let him work on cars there, but don’t worry, he won’t mind moving them somewhere else.”

I don’t remember exactly what I said after that, but we had an awkward drive back, and I escaped as soon as possible.

Once safe at home, I immediately filled out the rest of the paperwork for the first park and my new home was locked in.

In Search of a Trailer

There’s a recurring theme in a large number of detective shows and sci-fi movies, like the X-Files, where they find some hermit living out in the middle of nowhere in an Airstream trailer with a radar dish on the top. That’s basically my life goals.

So, naturally, my first instinct was to buy an old Airstream, but my rational side made me also explore other options.

These were the requirements for the purchase:

  • Immediately livable. No work required to move in.
  • Small enough to pull with a pickup.
  • Decent sized bathroom.
  • Financing available.

After spending days looking on Craigslist for RVs and motorhomes, I finally found the perfect one. It was for a pre-owned 2014 Airstream 22′ Sport model from an RV dealership. It had my ideal floorplan and a recently reduced price, and I knew that it would be in top condition with financing available. I was basically already sold.

The drive out to Manteca was picturesque, and the only thing missing was butterflies fluttering next to my head. Today was Valentine’s Day, and I felt like I was going on a first date. I arrived early and waited in a parking lot across the street, so as not to look too eager.

The RV dealership was huge, with many $100k-$200k models lined up. I walked in, introduced myself, and told them I have an appointment to look at an Airstream. They tracked down the salesman to help me, saying, “He’s here to see The Airstream,” as if there’s only one.

We walked through a huge lot filled with super expensive RVs, back… and back… and around the corner. Once we get to the very back corner of the lot, snuggled in next to two larger RVs is the little Airstream. It is the only one on the lot.

Stepping inside, he mentions that an old married couple only used it once or twice and then traded it in for something else, so it has barely been used. Above the bed is written “Every Once In Awhile, Right In the Middle of An Ordinary Life, Love Gives Us a Fairytale.”

We step back outside and I say, “Ok, I’ll take it.”

As we get the paperwork going, I realize how much it looks like a wrapped Chipotle burrito, and so the name was born – Silver Burrito.

The Decision

There are many choices we make in our life that just don’t matter.

Which flavor of ice cream do you want?
Do you want to go to the movies before or after dinner?
What outfit do you want to wear today?

The outcome is nearly the same no matter what you choose, excluding serendipitous opportunities. These questions often use the word “want” in them, because none of the choices are necessary.

However, there are some decisions that we make slowly and have a more permanent effect. You can usually spot a “should” in their question:

Should I take this job or that one?
Which city should I move to?
What should be my major?

I have a mantra:

If you’re not sure, take a mulligan.

When you have an important decision, you have to be certain about the answer. If you’re not confident, then it likely is the wrong one. The safest course of action is to do whatever keeps your options open, look for different solutions, and wait until you can make a sure choice.

When my 1-year lease was ending for my apartment in San Francisco, I was presented with the option to move somewhere else. There were many things that I hated about that apartment:

  • Living in the crowded city.
  • Renting instead of buying.
  • The floor creaked everywhere you walked.
  • The social effort required for interacting with neighbors.
  • I could hear my neighbors and I assume they could hear me.
  • Nowhere to park my car nearby.
  • Terribly small laundromat with limited hours.
  • I could never see the sky.

The problem was that anywhere I could move in the city had nearly the same problems. Anywhere outside of the city was expensive and required a long commute. In either case, I would have to sign another 1-year lease and provide an insane security deposit.

2014-06-21-12-13-25

Previously, I had the fortune of staying a night in a 2-bedroom motor yacht, used as a primary residence by the owner. I was able to see how space-efficient living worked and I loved it. There are two problems for me to live on a boat, however: I wouldn’t be able to drive a boat to Austin, and I can’t swim.

Discussing the idea with co-workers, we joked about living in a trailer instead, so I started to research. I found two fantastic resources of people following that lifestyle and I was hooked:
Gone with the Wynns
Pippenings

With that, there was no turning back. The decision was made.

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